I was asked by Rachel to explain to the readers of Bitten By Books about a huge misconception some people have about e-books and what they can and can’t do with them. This is a serious problem that every e-author faces on a daily basis and perhaps a little explanation will help you understand the situation.
Readers who enjoy the ease of being able to possess a book with the click of the mouse and have it available to them right then and there have three choices:
1. They can purchase what is called an e-book from the publisher’s website or through third-party sales such as Amazon, Sony, or dozens of other Internet distributors. That’s legal.
2. They can enter a contest where the giveaway is a download of that book directly from the author. That, too, is legal…up to a point.
3. They can download it illegally from a torrent or from a ‘friend’ who offers it to them free of charge. That is against the law.
Once you purchase an e-book, it is yours to keep but I stress the word ‘keep’. It is not like a print book that you can give away when you are done with it or sell at a garage sale. If you no longer want the e-book, you are required to erase it from your hard drive. You can not transfer it to a friend. You can not offer it as a prize in a contest. You can not re-sell it on eBay. You can not upload it to a torrent. You can not print it out, either, and attempt to sell it. Printing an e-book with the express purpose of re-sale is copyright theft. What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.
If you have won the book from an author in a contest you entered, the same restrictions apply. The author is not giving you his or her permission to copy, print out, or transfer the work. It is not the intent of the author that you either make money off the book or that you make it available to others to read. Just because you won it does not mean it belongs to you. Unlike print books that are actual, material goods, an e-book remains the sole property of the author and publisher. There is no inferred transfer of ownership.
Why can you not do these things? Other than being morally wrong it also against the law. Don’t believe me?
Check out and see for yourself here: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html#501
It is illegal to obtain an e-book without purchasing it and once purchased, an e-book may not be transferred from the purchaser’s computer or device reader to another. You can not upload up to a third party such as a torrent. You can not attempt to sell it on eBay.
Illegally downloading an e-book from a torrent or accepting it from a friend is copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property. Neither the author…who has struggled to bring that book to readers…nor the publisher…who has a monetary interest in the book…will see a single red cent from the illegal transfer of that book.
Piracy abounds in the literary world just as it does in the film and music industries. Just because you can does not mean you have the unalienable right to steal what does not belong to you. Theft is theft. If you download an illegal book, film or music, you are a thief. It is as simple as that. If you accept an illegal download of a book, film or music, you are not only abetting the thief, you have now become one.
Some people will read that statement and laugh. So what? They scoff. Authors and publishers, actors and producers, musicians and singers make more money than I do and can afford to lose a sale or two. What’s the big deal? Why should I give a rat’s patooty if they don’t get any more money? Get real! Everybody’s doing it!
The big deal is loss of revenue doesn’t always come from those who can afford it. We’re not talking about the Stephen Kings, Brad Pitts, and Madonnas of the world. We’re talking about people just like you and me. These are the same people who are struggling to pay their bills, their rent, and put food on the table just as you are. They’re not rich and the chances are very good they never will be. Chances are even better that they make less from their writing than you do at your day job. Every time you illegally download one of their books or give it to a friend, you are literally taking the money out of that author’s hand.
The average e-book author makes less than $1000 a year total on a book. Yes, there are those who make more but many of the name e-book authors make less than $10,000 a year. Believe me when I tell you that every download from every torrent or from every person giving away an e-book will average in the tens of thousands of dollars for some authors and in the hundreds of thousands for others. That isn’t chicken feed no matter how you look at it.
And it isn’t completely the loss of sales that are a problem with e-piracy.
Many e-authors who are popular with readers will find their books have been translated illegally into other languages. One of mine has been translated into nine different languages and even has different covers. Considering my publisher never translated the book into any foreign language that constitutes a copyright violation. It is plagiarism, pure and simple.
Ask any e-author out here and he or she will tell you exactly how they feel about e-pirates. Many publishers have designated a staff member to hunt down these thieves and turn over their ISPs to the authorities. New, tougher laws are being discussed to find and punish the pirates. They could lose Internet access completely as well as be slapped with hefty fines. Some…those who are repeat offenders…may face jail time.
Before you hand off that e-book you purchased from its publisher to a friend, remember that what you are doing is illegal. If you upload it to a torrent, you are a committing a crime. If you attempt to sell it, there are legal ramifications and you could lose Internet access if caught. (Since nothing ever goes away on the World Wide Web, there will be a page cached somewhere with that information. The right people know where to look. Do you really want to risk losing Internet privileges?)
Before you download an e-book in a contest, bear in mind neither the author nor the publisher is granting you permission to do with that book as you please. It, unlike a print book, does not belong to you.
A big thank you from all of us to Charlotte for sharing this info, and making it clearer for everybody who purchases and reads e-books. I really appreciate the time you took to put this article together.
Here is another great posts about E-piracy from Anya Bast: